Hogtober is underway!

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Hogtober is underway!

It’s late afternoon in the Francis Marion National Forest, the autumn sun cascading down on the savanna dotted with longleaf pines. In between the trees, underneath sandhills where there is no vegetation, southern hognose snakes have been waiting for the sun to dip lower in the sky, and the temperature with it, before emerging. ARC’s team, scientific advisors, and interns are all waiting to catch a long-awaited glimpse of the unmistakable face of the southern hognose snake.

Driven by temperature, southern hognose snakes are most active in the mornings and late afternoons and, like many of us, prefer more temperate days in the 60s and 70s. While you’d be lucky to spot a southern hognose snake on any day, your chances are ever so slightly increased during October. Commonly known in the herp community as Hogtober, October is one of the three peak months of the year during which these snakes can be detected… and that’s why we’re here!

Usually measuring between 10 and 22 inches long, these small snakes are fossorial, meaning they burrow. They have a uniquely shaped nose that helps them dig in loose sand and their underground nature makes them hard to find in their natural habitat, even for some would-be predators. Southern hognose snakes themselves, who are mildly venomous, are only dangerous to their favorite food – toads! They are especially partial to oak toads, a small species often found in sandhills.

Unfortunately, in the past several decades, southern hognose snake populations have decreased throughout their range, and have disappeared from Mississippi and Alabama entirely. They are now found only in Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas. Their preference for sandy habitats often puts them in harm’s way, as these areas are prime sites for housing developments. In addition to habitat loss and fragmentation, southern hognose snakes are threatened by non-native invasive species such as feral hogs and fire ants.

ARC, in close collaboration with our partners, is working to secure the last remnant populations of the southern hognose snake in the Francis Marion National Forest and is improving surrounding habitat for a brighter future. Catch up with us next time to learn more about what ARC is doing and how you can be a part of Hogtober!

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